We began our day visiting the City of David Archaeological Site. This is the oldest settled neighbourhood of Jerusalem. It is a narrow ridge running south from the Temple Mount. According to tradition, it is the place where King David built his palace and established his capital. In the times of King Hesekiah, the walls around the city were expanded westward, enclosing an unwalled suburb of Jerusalem. He also had tunnels dug in order to transport water from the Gideon Spring outside the city to the inside of Jerusalem so as to supply water to the city whilst under siege. what a beautiful, historical site to visit, the starting place of the Jerusalem we see today.
Our next site was called Peter Gallicantu, where Jesus was taken to the High Priest's home after He was arrested and lowered into a holding cell or pit for the night before facing sentencing by the Roman Governor. It was also the place where Peter denied knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Pastor Bert Videler shared scripture around the events that took place here and we were deeply moved by what Jesus must have endured during these awful hours leading up to His crucifixion.
We were all ready to relax in the warm sunshine at the shores of the Dead Sea again. We had a lovely lunch overlooking the calm, cool water after some of our tour members enjoyed a refreshing dip.
Now it was time to get some last minute shopping done. So back to the Old City of Jerusalem for those must have souvenirs!
By late afternoon we made our last visit of the day to The Garden Tomb site. What a beautiful place to visit. We saw Golgotha, the hill where Jesus was crucified and the tomb, He was supposed to have been buried in. It was rather busy and crowded by many other tourists but we were assured of a return visit the next morning in a much quieter slot.
Before our hearty hotel dinner we enjoyed an extremely inspiring and interesting address by the President and pastor of SAREL Tours.
Another amazing and most eventful day in the Holy Land for us. It's hard to believe that our time here has come to an end. This will be our last night in Israel before we begin our long journey home to South Africa.
Today our first visit was to the Israel Museum. Here we viewed the Dead Sea Scrolls and an impressive model of the city of Jerusalem in the time of the 2nd Temple.
Our second visit was to the Yad Vashem Holocast Museum. This was a very sobering time for us all. The graphic displays and recorded events of the Holocast during the 2nd World War was horrifying and most insightful. We were all affected by the terrible scenes we saw.
Our afternoon was spent with a much lighter mood as we went to the Christian Quarter of the Old City and did some much needed bartering and shopping! We were all in good spirits again by the end of the day comparing our purchases as we made our way back to the Hotel for the evening.
Today we will spend a full day walking through the streets of Jerusalem. We began at the Mount of Olives where Pastors Andre & Jenny spoke about being rooted and grounded in the Word of God, in a peaceful olive grove overlooking the beautiful Old Jerusalem.
From here we walked down the steep slope to the Garden of Gethsemane. This is where Jesus wept over the city and spent His night before His crucifixion. Once again Pastors Andre & Jenny shared from the scriptures about that terrible night and we all had time to reflect on the selfless love of our Saviour.
We then entered the gates of the Old Jerusalem and walked through the Jewish Quarter. We looked at a part of the wall King Hesikiah built, then visited the Western or Wailing Wall.
We walked on to the Pool of Bethesda where Pastor Andre spoke about the man Jesus healed at the pool and encouraged all of us to rise up into the purpose God has for each of us. Then we were blessed beyond our expectations as we lifted our voices and worshipped together in the church on site. The acoustics were so awesome, it sounded as though all of heaven was singing with us.
From here, we walked along the Ia Delarosa (the road Jesus walked, carrying the cross through the city) to a Roman holding place where He was scourged and mocked and kept before His crucifixion.
Our last visit of the day was to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is one of the supposed locations where Jesus was said to be crucified and then buried.
What a full day spent walking through this fascinating, beautiful, ancient city.
Even though we woke up to a beautiful day in Jerusalem, we would be spending a day southwest of the city to the shores of the Dead Sea. Our first stop was the ancient fortress of Masada. We went up the isolated rock plateau by cable car. This magnificent mountain is on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. After the first Jewish-Roman war, a siege of the fortress by troops of the Roman Empire led to the mass suicide of a group of extremist Jewish rebels. We all gathered at the top of the mountain and heard a short, inspiring word on faith and endurance by Pastors Andre and Jenny, we walked through the ruins that housed first the Romans and then the brave Jewish rebels who chose death rather than surrender to slavery. It was a fascinating piece of history that came alive on top of this mountain.
We then made our way to an oasis, west of the Dead Sea called Ein Gedi. This is where the Bible records the account the Moabites and Ammonites gathered to fight Jehosophat. It is also recorded as the place where David hides when King Saul tries to kill him. As we looked at the cragged rocks where David must have hid, Pastors Andre & Jenny shared around the importance of forgiveness. Pastors Nicky & Lilian van der Westhuizen gave personal testimonies and insight concerning dealing with unforgiveness. We spent time in prayer together ministering to each other.
After a lovely typical Israeli lunch, we visited an archaeological site in the West Bank called Qumran. This is known as the settlement nearest to the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden, in caves in the sheer desert cliffs.
Our last stop of the day was one we were all waiting for! We got to for our Dead Sea Swim! We had so much fun covering our bodies in the sea shore mud and washing it off in the salty sea. Floating in the Dead Sea was a most enjoyable experience and a hilarious highlight to our day!
We began our days travels in the ancient city of Beit She'an. We walked through its streets and ruins and marvelled at the detail of the Roman architecture. In biblical times, this city belonged to the Philistines. According to 1 Samuel 31, the Philistines fought against Israel and pursued King Saul and his sons on Mount Gilboa, a way off from this city. Saul, his three sons, his armour bearer and all his men died that day together. The next day the Philistines cut off Saul's head and stripped off his armor and fastened his body to the wall of Beth-Shan. The valiant men of a nearby Israeli tribe travelled the next night and took the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall and cremated them at Jabesh, and buried their bones under a tree there.
Our next stop was Gideon's Spring. We gathered around this ancient spring listening to Pastor Andre as he retold the event where Gideon had to select his 300 men for battle. His message was very inspiring. The heavens opened and we had to make a run for the busses as the rain poured down on us.
We continued our journey further south through the Jordan Valley and stopped for a typical Israeli lunch where a few brave members of our tour group enjoyed a short ride upon a camel! We made a short stop in a Jewish community on a mountain slope just above the famous city of Jericho, the first city conquered by the Israelites, led by Joshua as the left the wilderness and entered the promised land.
Then we climbed the mountains as we made our ascent into the very beautiful city of Jerusalem. It was an emotional moment shared by all as we looked over the Old City from a view point on Mount Scopus. Finally, the moment we have all being waiting for, our journey has taken us from the Northanmost part of Isreal to its magnificent capital city of Jerusalem. In the days to come we will spend much time visiting the significant biblical sites in this city and are sure to embrace each moment as a most memorable experience.
The heavens opened and rain was the order of the day! In spite of the very wet weather, we journeyed on up through the magnificent Golan Hights, a rocky plateau overlooking Syrian border. We visited one of the 3 sources of the Jordan river and waled through the ancient ruins of the biblical city called Tel Dan. It is described in the Bible as the northernmost city of the Kingdom of Israel, belonging to the tribe of Dan.
We moved on to a historical site in the region called Banias. This is an archeological site by the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asked His disciples who they believed Him to be. Pastor Dale spent a few moments sharing around this event and we were once again stirred in our hearts and encouraged to see Jesus as a very real presence in our lives and to view things by His spirit rather than our limited natural senses.
The rain poured down so hard and the mist closed in around us which convinced us to call it a day and make our way back to the hotel for a much deserved rest.
After a delicious breakfast at our hotel, now situated in the Galilee District, we boarded a wooden boat and sailed across the fresh water lake, known as the Sea of Galilee. When we got half way across, we stopped the boat's engines to hear Pastor Andre share on the account of Jesus walking on the water in the midst of a tremendous storm towards the disciples' boat. When He reached them He climbed into their boat, the wind died down and the sea became calm. We spent some time reflecting on His presence in our lives and the peace He brings to the storms of our lives. We worshipped Him together and His sweet presence was so tangible and felt by everyone on board. This was one of the many precious and memorable encounters we experienced in the Holy Land together.
Once reaching the other side of the lake, we visited a site that housed an ancient fishing boat from the 1st century called the Beit Yigal Alon, known as "The Jesus Boat". It was discovered in 1986 on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.
From here we drove to the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. We walked to a beautiful spot on the mount and sat down on some scattered rocks to hear Pastor Andre share around the teaching Jesus gave almost 2000 years earlier. His words touched our hearts and it felt so surreal hearing this beautiful message on the same mountain Jesus spoke from, overlooking the beautiful Sea of Galilee. When we made our way down the mountain, we walked onto the shore of the lake and cooled our feet in the water. What a sight it was seeing 82 Africans, rolling up our pants and splashing about in the cool water! We sat on the rocks at the water's edge listening to Pastor Andre retelling the event of Jesus multiplying the little boy's lunch of two fish and five loaves, a miracle that happened on the mountain, a short distance from where we were sitting. Once again it was a beautiful moment that made our hearts full at the memory of what Jesus did and the fact that we were remembering it on the beautiful shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Ps Jenny at Capernaum
We drove a little further around the lake to the little fishing village of Capernaum. According to the Gospels, Jesus selected this town as being the centre of His public ministry in the Galileean District. Archaeological excavations have revealed two ancient synagogues, the ruins of typical fishermen's homes and what is believed to be the home of Peter, a disciple of Jesus. We could almost imagine the account of where Jesus healed the paralytic man who was lowered through the roof of one of the homes. The Gospel of Luke records this village as also being the home of the apostles Andrew, James and John, as well as the tax collector Matthew. Scripture tells us that Jesus frequented this village often and taught in the synagogue. He delivered a demon possessed man and healed Simon Peter's mother-in Law. We found a shady spot overlooking the Sea of Galilee where Pastor Jenny spoke about the encounter of the Roman Centurian who asked Jesus to heal his servant, that took place in this village of Capernaum. It was an encouraging word and built our faith in the validity of God's spoken and written word.
After a delicious lunch at a local Kabutz on the lake shore, we made out way to the traditional Yardenit Baptismal Site in the Jordan river. Here a few of our group selected to be baptised. It was a most memorable occasion for those observing and participating alike. What a perfect way to end a most impressive day in the Galileean District.
After a hearty breakfast at our hotel in Tel-Aviv, we began our journey northward towards the coastal city of Caesarea by the sea. In Bible times, Herod built Caesarea into the grandest city other than Jerusalem in Palestine. We visited the amphitheater, hippodrome, aqueduct and the remains Herod's private palace on the shore. We also walked through what used to be Caesarea's deep sea harbor that became a fortified city by the Crusaders centuries later. The significance of this beautiful city in Christian history is great. This is the place where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus. This was also where Simon Peter converted the first non-Jew, Cornelius, to faith in Jesus.
After this, we made our way to Mount Carmel. This beautiful coastal mountain range in Northern Israel stretches from the Mediterranean Sea towards the south east and overlooks the Jezreel Valley that has played host to many battles over the years. According to Biblical history, this was the mountain where the prophet Elijah took on the 450 false prophets of Baal in a contest to see who worshipped the true God. After the God of Elijah sent down fire from heaven, Elijah gave chase to the false prophets and killed every last one of them a short distance from the mountain. We spent some time worshipping the Lord on the mountain top, thanking Him for His Holy Fire that burns within our hearts today.
Our journey continued to a small man made hill called Tel Megiddo. This site was inhabited from approximately 7000BC to 586 BC. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and was built like a great fortress on top of a mountain. Throughout its history Megiddo was built and rebuilt, 25 times. We were able to see some of the remaining ruins dating back to King Solomon's time. Megiddo overlooks the Jezreel Valley, where the gathering for the battle of Armageddon, according to the book of Revelation, is to take place. Scripture states that in the end, nations will turn against Israel but those who bless her will indeed be blessed. We took a few moments to stretch out our hands from this mountain towards the north, south, east and west and blessed the Nation of Israel.
It was late afternoon when we drove into the large city of Nazareth. Today it is known as the "Arab capital of Israel". In Bible times, it was known to be the childhood home of Jesus. We briefly visited the Franciscan Church of St. Joseph, built over a cave identified since the 17th century as the "workshop" of Joseph. We remembered how Jesus went into the temple in Nazareth, opened the scriptures and began to read the portion that related to Him as being anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to preach the good news to the poor, open blind eyes, set free the captives and deliver those in bondage. It was after this that the people of his own town despised Him, rejected His teachings and refused to have faith in Him. The Bible says that because of their unbelief, non of the sick were healed.